A rare Roman mosaic has been unearthed on a British farm in a “remarkable” discovery.
Historic England, a public body that looks after the country’s historic environment, said it is the first time the mosaic – found in Rutland, East Midlands – has been uncovered in 1,600 years.
The Roman mosaic is the first of its kind found in the UK to depict the Greek hero Achilles’ battle with Hector during the Trojan War, and is part of just “a handful” of examples found in Europe, Historic England said in a press release Thursday.
Jim Irvine, the son of the landowner, spotted “unusual pottery” in a wheat field during England’s coronavirus lockdown last year and alerted the local authority.
Archaeologists from the University of Leicester Archaeological Services, alongside Historic England and Rutland County Council, excavated the site and discovered the mosaic, which measures 11 meters by 7 meters (36 feet by 30 feet).
The artwork forms the floor of what is thought to have been a dining or entertaining area in a large villa. The building was occupied in the late Roman period, between the 3rd and 4th century AD.
Historic England said the complex, which has now been given protected status, was likely owned by a wealthy individual with knowledge of classical literature.
“To have uncovered such a rare mosaic of this size, as well as a surrounding villa, is remarkable,” said Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, in the press release.
“Discoveries like this are so important in helping us piece together our shared history. By protecting this site we are able to continue learning from it, and look forward to what future excavations may teach us about the people who lived there.”
The Roman villa is surrounded by other buildings from the period uncovered during a geophysical survey.
These include barns, possible bath houses, and a number of boundary ditches.
Human remains dating back to the very late Roman or early medieval period were also found at the site, and were interred at the site later than the mosaic.
Historic England said the bodies were likely interred when the building was no longer occupied, and that fire damage to the mosaic suggests the complex was reused.
Britain has a rich Roman historic past.
Last month, archaeologists in Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire, south east England, discovered a set of “incredible” and rare Roman statues of a man, woman and a child. Also discovered was a hexagonal glass Roman jug, presumed to be more than 1,000 years old.
In a separate archaeological dig in April, the remains of a complex of “high-status” Roman buildings were uncovered during construction work on a new housing development in Scarborough, northern England.